3 things you didn’t know about voice assistants

You’ve probably heard of voice assistants that you have on your smartphone — Siri or Google Assistant. Usually, they help in some simple tasks like updating calendar or checking traffic in the city. But there might be some things you didn’t know.

When all of it started?

As voice technology is getting hotter topic these days, you might think that it’s pretty new. Well, not really. Exactly in the middle of the twentieth century, engineers from Bell Labs built Audrey — Automatic Digit Recognizer. From that time many such recognizers were built, but the real success was made by the IVR system. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was used as an automated phone assistant — you could call and ask for the weather forecast, make plane tickets reservation, bank transfer or ask about traffic in the city. Soon, it could also recognize long sequences of digits and letters that were used at delivery companies and in the late 90’s IVR systems were able to refer to users’ answers in the conversation. The new era of voice assistants came along with Siri concept in 2006 by Apple. After that time, the biggest companies started to compete in the voice user interfaces field.

Below you can find three things that you probably didn’t know about voice assistants!

1. They can cure loneliness

More and more people nowadays feel lonely. The age, the gender, the career path, none of these matter since we all live in a post-demographic society and everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. It turns out that voice assistants can come to help! As many researches show, just only interacting with voice assistants such as Alexa on Amazon Echo or Google Assistant on Google Home can decrease the sense of loneliness and boost your mood (here you can find the article). Talking to assistants nowadays is so natural, that you can easily have a small talk after coming back from work or nice morning chat after waking up which might be very therapeutic during hard moments alone. The research among elderly people in Maryland and the District of Columbia show that daily interaction with smart speakers eliminates isolation and loneliness.

2. They can educate your children about good manners

Smart speakers don’t seem to be very demanding when it comes to the tone of voice you’re using to talk to them. Unfortunately, kids realized it and used to act bossy around. Soon, Amazon and Google reacted. The first big company created a new skill for their Alexa — “Magic Word” which was helping people (not only kids!) to remember about proper vocabulary by praising for words such as “please”. After some time they launched their new product specifically for children to protect them from learning bad manners. Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is a colorful device that provides skills designed for children, has parental control and pays attention to the way of children speech. It rewards polite questions and thanks after the answer. In 2018 Google also answered parent’s worries. They created a skill named “PrettyPlease”, which adds cheerful reactions after using polite words.

3. They can help people with speech impairments

There’s huge potential in using voice interface in medicine. Not only voice assistants understand people with speech impairments, but also there are more and more products which can help them to communicate easily. Nowadays, many people don’t even try to use voice assistants because they worry that their problems with speech would prevent them from being understood. Luckily, the voice technology is working hard in this field and over time it understands more and more. What’s interesting, there are products under development that can process speech changed by many diseases such as stroke, brain tumor, cerebral palsy or Autism (you can watch it here). Non-standard or dysarthric speech recognition enables easy communication with family, friends or even smart home devices so that millions who suffer from consistent or temporary speech disorders could vocalize their thoughts in an understandable way.

Did you know about them? Leave a comment below!

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Illustrations were taken from unsplash.com

I am a UX Designer, but I also do research and facilitate workshops. I’m passionate about human’s brain, mindful lifestyle and travelling.